You’re driving me zine-sane
Have you ever felt like reading a smaller, less commercial, and more niche version of a magazine? Ben Robinson explains why a zine is what you’re after.
My first encounter with zines was one of mass confusion. The year was 2015, I was in my Year 11 media class, and we just got our first assignment. “Your task,” said Mr Deverson, “is to make a zine.” The class of 30 tech-obsessed Gen Z teens all looked around at each other and asked the same question – “What the fuck is a zine?”
You may or may not have guessed that zine is short for magazine or fanzine, which is quite apt considering zines are usually short magazines. They are typically home-made, produced via photocopiers, and have short circulations. They tend to focus on niche content like sub-genres, but generally speaking, they don’t have be about anything at all. They can be a series of issues or they can be one-and-done. They first came to prominence in the 1930’s and 1940’s as a way for science fiction fans to interact with their favourite comics and novels. They took on a new life in the 1970’s, and zines became part of the underground punk movement, and in the 2010’s they experienced a resurgence as a middle-finger to the Internet by people who missed holding something other than a smartphone in their hands.
Given this resurgence, I would like to share with you a few of my favourite zines and zine-makers to check out.
Femmes to the Front by Bianca Jagoe
This feminist-focussed zine fits into the one-and-done category. The content includes a list of ‘Things That Don’t Make You A Bad Feminist’, a feminist vocabulary glossary, a pure-fire feminist mixtape tracklist, and plenty of other gems (including a recipe for Slut Brownies). To make it better, each cover comes with a unique hand-drawn pattern, and all of the proceeds from the zine go towards FURY (Femmes United in a Rhythmic Yell), which is an organisation dedicated to encouraging women to get more access to the Tasmanian music scene.
Hailing from Savannah, Georgia (USA), AINT-BAD is essentially a print exhibition of photographic art, promoting thought-provoking imagery that tackles a wide range of social issues, from rural American life to the importance of the selfie. The latest issue – number 13 – marks seven years of being a print publication, and the ANTI-BAD team have focused on the theme of collaboration. The publication has called on some of the best in the business to curate a selection of the best contemporary photography being made today. AINT-BAD might look like a proper magazine, but don’t let it’s sleek exterior fool you, they are a heavy-hitter in the zine world.
These guys aren’t so much a zine as they are zine-making group. These Melbourne-based zine-lovers operate nearly exclusively from their Etsy store, and their profile bio is simple: “We're a bunch of mates from Melbourne, Australia, making zines and bringing them together in one place.” That’s pretty much all you need to know about this gang. They take a bunch of zines, and through avenues like Etsy and Instagram, give them life and a leg-up. They’re a new group, posting their first teaser in February 2018. But when you consider the origin of the zine craze, it’s fair to say that Zine Gang Distro are the 21st century’s perfect messenger for this subculture.
Ben Robinson is a first-year student of economics who wants to explain things to people for a living, by making boring stuff sound interesting. He is currently obsessed with bad rom-coms from the early 2000’s, and he enjoys long walks on the beach, sunsets, and long walks on the beach at sunset.